The State Department recently went out of its way to warn the public to expect unusually long delays in approving their new passport applications and processing passport renewals.
The U.S. State Department tweeted an update on Friday addressing the extended wait times Americans are experiencing for their passports due to what it is calling “unprecedented demand.”
According to the post, wait times are currently taking 10 to 13 weeks from the time an application is accepted. (Not including time for mailing, which can add several weeks to the process.) Even expedited processing takes an average of seven to nine weeks and costs an additional $60.
And instead of getting better, things are getting worse. The State Department’s last warning, issued in late February, said regular processing typically takes between eight and 11 weeks, while expedited service was averaging five to seven weeks. This week’s update shows more delays since that advisory.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reportedly told CNN on Thursday that the agency is, “getting 500,000 applications a week for passports.” Blinken stated at a budget hearing before the House Appropriations Subcommittee that there were between 30% and 40% more requests than at the same time last year. “Historically, the demand’s been cyclical, the busy season is kind of March to late summer. Basically, it’s full-time now,” he explained.
At the same time, Blinken assured that the department is making an effort to resolve the problem. “We’ve hired staff to increase the adjudicative capacity to make sure that…we’ve got the customer service phone lines manned, we have more people in the pipeline and that’s also reflected in the budget. It’s hugely important,” he said.
Blinken expressed, “I think it’s really important that we be as clear and transparent as possible with people who are looking for passports to know what they can expect.”
Due to deficiencies in the system that must be addressed before it can be made available to the general public, the pilot program for a new online passport renewal platform established in 2022 was discontinued in early February. The initiative was halted, according to the secretary of state, “to make sure that we can fine-tune it and improve it before we roll it out in a bigger way.” He added, “We expect that 65 percent of renewal customers for passports will be able to do so online once this program is fully up and running,”
In light of the recent onslaught of questions and complaints from concerned travelers who have not yet received their documents, the Bureau has developed a special portal with tools and agency contact information to help applicants who need their passports immediately.